My college major was philosophy. It’s a degree I’m very proud of--I’m a better thinker, writer, debater, and even, I think, person, as a result of it.
You wouldn’t necessarily know that, though, by the way I’ve referenced my degree in the past. I’ve made all kinds of self-deprecating remarks about studying philosophy, from joking about getting my more “useful” master’s degree in communication so I could get a job, to pre-empting someone’s response with a self-aware, “I know, right?”
I did this out of a warped sense of self-protection. I thought that most people wouldn’t understand why anyone would study philosophy or that they would make jokes about my future by saying, “Do you want fries with that?” So I beat them to the punch. If I hurt myself in a seemingly innocent, self-deprecating way, then they couldn’t do it first.
I’m not saying that self-deprecation is always bad--when it’s done purely for humor, out of an actually strong sense of self-worth, it’s enjoyable and relatable. But my own mocking of my philosophy degree stemmed from a larger pattern of negative self-talk that was decidedly unhealthy, rooted in fears that maybe a philosophy degree really was something to be ashamed of (or at least a little embarrassed by). At the same time, I knew I didn’t actually believe those fears, but it was easier to act as if I did to appease the skeptics.
I’m grateful that Dave saw it for what it was and called me out on it. He (a chemical engineering major, no less) was proud of my degree and thought I should be, too. I knew he was right and I’ve tried very hard since then to just say what I majored in with no extra negative commentary thrown in.
I’ve felt even better about this decision over the last few months when it appears that our society is having basic struggles with facts, critical thinking, and the truth--see, philosophy is important! And Anna’s Mussmann’s excellent article, “No, Stay At Home Moms Don’t ‘Waste’ Their Education” reminded me of a key reason why I believe in liberal arts education and my philosophy degree--education isn’t only or even mainly about job preparation, but about becoming better people, and just because you’re not earning money from something doesn’t mean it’s a waste. (Of course, this does need to be balanced with the cost of education, as Mussmann points out.) You don’t waste your education if you’re a stay-at-home mom, and you don’t waste your education if it’s in philosophy.
So if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a liberal arts major, an artist, or anyone with any kind of interest that is often misunderstood by the world at large, don’t feel ashamed. Own it and be proud. I am philosophy major, hear me roar.